Inch in a Pinch
Inch in a Pinch Caterpillar

 

"Hi! I'm Inch in a Pinch and right now we are going to look at the Wetlands habitat. Wetlands are one of our richest habitat areas. They are also the least appreciated and the first to be destroyed. In the early 1990s, the United States had only 104 million acres of Wetlands in the lower 48 states, less than half of the Wetlands present 200 years ago. Every year an average of 290,000 acres of freshwater and coastal Wetlands are lost! This is Gone Goslin'. He lives in the Wetlands for part of the year. He's going to be our guide for this area. I'll turn things over to Gone Goslin'."


Gone Goslin'
Goose

 

 

"Most people think my name is pretty funny. Actually it means just what it says. Pretty soon, if things don't change here in the Wetlands, I'm going to be a gone gosling (gosling means a young goose - I'm only about four months old, you know!). Yeah, that's right! The animals that live in and use the Wetlands won't have any place to nest, have babies, eat, rest up during migration or do all those great things animals do. I thought , if you knew more about this habitat area, you might try harder to save it. Come on! Hop on! I'll fly you over for a bird's eye view.


Description
Arrow
The term "wetlands" applies to those areas where water is near, at, or above the level of the ground. This water comes from tidal flows, flooding rivers, or connections with groundwater.

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Wetlands are covered or soaked with water for at least a part, and often all, of the year and fall somewhere in between the marine and terrestrial ecosystems. The existence of all types of wetlands, as well as many of their biological characteristics, is determined by water: the amount that flows into and out of wetlands and the amount that is stored there.

Arrow
Wetlands are found on every continent except Antarctica and in climates ranging from the tropics to the tundra. They occupy about 6 percent of the land surface of the world, or approximately 2.2 billion acres. The United States contains about 274 million acres or approximately 12 percent of the world's wetlands.

Arrow
Because they have both land and aquatic characteristics, wetlands are some of the most diverse ecosystems on earth. About one-fourth of the plants, one-half of the fishes, two-thirds of the birds, and three-fourths of the amphibians listed as threatened or endangered in the United States are associated with wetlands.
   
Arrow
Benefits of the Wetland habitat area:
 
1. Inland wetlands may help control floods by storing water and slowly releasing it to downstream areas after the flood peak.
2. Wetlands can reduce wave action and slow down the flow of water, lessening erosion and causing sediments to settle out of the water.
3. Growing wetland plants and chemical processes in wetland sediments removes of nutrients and contaminants from the water, thus improving its quality.
4. Wetlands may also serve as sites where surface water can seep into the ground and replenish the groundwater.
5. Wetlands provide many opportunities for recreational activities, such as bird-watching, hunting, fishing, trapping, and hiking, and they provide educational opportunities for nature studies and scientific research.
6. Some North American wetlands are of archaeological interest because Native American settlements were located near them. Peatlands in Denmark and England have yielded human fossil remains from about 2000 years ago, well preserved by acidic and anaerobic (low-oxygen) conditions.
7. Wetlands are also valuable for the food and timber harvested from them.

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There are several types of Freshwater Wetlands:
 
Swamps
 {short description of image}
Swamps are dominated by trees or shrubs and occur in a variety of flooding conditions. Standing water can be present in swamps during all or just a small part of the year. Water chemistry in swamps can vary greatly, depending on the water source.
Okefenokee Swamp
Okefenokee Swamp
Swamp soils can be rich or poor in nutrients and vary in mineral or organic content. Swamps often occur along river floodplains, in shallow, quiet waters of lakes, and along subtropical to tropical coasts. In swamps, islands are formed by layers of peat and become the foundation for grasses, shrubs and trees. When stepped on, these islands move a bit, which is why the Indians called the swamp "trembling earth". Examples of swamps include bottomland hardwood forests in the lower Mississippi River Valley; and the Okefenokee Swamp on the Georgia-Florida border.
   
Marshes
 {short description of image}
Picture of a Marsh
Marshes are periodically or continually flooded wetlands characterized by nonwoody emergent plants - plants that are adapted to living in shallow water or in moisture-saturated soils. Different species of emergent plants often occur in zones within a marsh; zones are determined by the elevation of the soil surface relative to the water level. Water chemistry in marshes depends on the water sources and varies from salt water, from incoming and outgoing ocean tides, (Tidal Marshes are discussed as a separate habitat area) to mineralized fresh water (from groundwater, streams, and surface runoff) to poorly mineralized fresh water (mostly from precipitation) Marshes often have mineral soils. Coarser soils such as sand are found in areas subject to waves or flowing water; in more protected areas, silts and clays accumulate with dead plant matter to form organic soils.
   
Prairie Potholes
 {short description of image}
Prairie potholes are saucer-shaped depressions formed by retreating glaciers in the ice age. Although flooded with water for only a short period of time each Spring, they play a vital role in aquatic and wildlife habitat. Prairie potholes are located only in the United States in North America. They can be found in the Upper Plains States and are often called the "duck factories" of America because of their importance to the livelihood of ducks and other migratory birds.
   
Bogs
 {short description of image}
Also known as peatlands, bogs are simply wetlands that have organic soils consisting of peat--the partially decomposed remains of plants and animals. Bogs are found in colder regions of the world. Because of the colder temperatures and limited oxygen supply in the water, the breakdown of organic material does not happen. Bogs usually occupy shallow depressions in the landscape near a spring or a brook. Bogs, one of North America's most distinctive kinds of wetlands, are characterized by spongy peat deposits, a growth of evergreen trees and shrubs, and a floor covered by a thick carpet of sphagnum moss. They are systems with extremely low nutrient levels. The only water source is rainwater. Bogs are found only in the northern hemisphere. They have short growing seasons. The frequent rains and high humidity associated with these regions cause excessive moisture to accumulate.
Picture of a Bog
Bog
   
Fens
 {short description of image}
Fens are peatlands whose dominant plants are sedges (tall grass-like plants) accompanied by grasses, brown mosses and flowers such as iris. A fen is fed by streams or by ground water. Fens are less acidic and generally richer in nutrients than bogs. Some of the most beautiful fens in the world are located in Scotland.
Picture of a Fen
Fen
   
Flood Plains
 {short description of image}
Flood Plains are those surfaces or strips of relatively smooth land that lie next to river channels. These flood plains are created by the rivers themselves. in their normal course of action. The flood plains become covered with water when the rivers overflows. When this flooding ocurs, the land bordering the river gains much needed nutrients from the river water.

Arrow Wetland losses have resulted in greater flooding and erosion, reduced water quality, and reduced populations of many plants and animals.
Goose

 

 

"I think the wetlands are awesome places, don't you? Now, I want you to learn just what kinds of plants and animals live here. Of course, there are too many to list them all here. Some of these guys are my best friends. I think you'll like them. Hey...the plants are out of this world, too! Just click on the buttons below. I'll be here when you're finished." 


Link to Animal PageLinkm to Plant Page


Gone Goslin' Goose

 

 

"Okay, now we really have to get serious. It's very important to know what areas are in immediate trouble and why. Please pay very careful attention. Everyone (all the plants, animals and me), who lives in the wetlands, is counting on you!"

 
Critical Areas
1.Over half of America's coastal wetlands border the Gulf of Mexico. Louisiana has been hard hit by wetland loss from rising sea level, land settling due to ground-water use, levees on the Mississippi River, and dams on its tributaries, as well as channels dredged through wetlands. These wetlands are being lost at the rate of 32 square miles per year.

2.The 1350-acre Bolsa Chica lowlands are what remain of a 2300-acre wetland complex located behind beaches and dunes along the Orange County coastline by Huntington Beach in southern California. The area is degraded both by oil drilling activities and blocked saltwater inflow. It is home to six threatened or endangered birds and, if restored, would result in habitat for over 60 species of fish. Wetlands along this Pacific Flyway are among the highest priority nationally for preservation.

3. The Okefenokee Swamp is the largest swamp on earth. DuPont has proposed to strip mine 38,000 acres for titanium dioxide on Trail Ridge along the eastern border of the Okefenokee. The mine would operate 24 hours per day, for 50 years. The operation would involve: clearcutting mile-square sections of trees; scraping off a foot-thick layer of topsoil; dredging 20-acre, 50-foot deep ponds; pumping 750,000 gallons of water per day out of the ground; and treating and then dumping waste water into the St. Mary's River.

Mining Trail Ridge, the natural dam which formed the Swamp, could alter the flow of water into and out of the Okefenokee, with devastating impacts on vegetation and wildlife. Dumping and spills of wastewater or stormwater could pollute both the Swamp and the St. Mary's River. Thousands of acres of wetlands will be destroyed, threatening the survival of endangered species. Air quality may be lowered by dust.

Other Wetlands in trouble:
Australia - Eighty Mile Beach, the floodplains of Kakadu National Park, Macquarie Marshes


Reasons For Habitat Loss
 
Arrow Wetlands are drained and filled to lessen the mosquito population.

Arrow Rivers are dredged and re-channeled destroying flood plains.

Arrow Urban, industrial and residential projects requiring land often result in the filling in of wetland areas.

Arrow Levees built along river beds destroy flood plains..

Arrow Dams built on rivers cause wetlands to dry up and disappear.

Arrow Wetland areas are degraded by oil-drilling operations.

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Mining operations, often built on the headwaters of wetland areas, sometimes result in toxic waste runoff that pollutes the waters of the wetlands.

Arrow Storm water is a major source of pollutants to our wetlands.

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Plastic waste such as soda can rings, plastic pop containers and plastic gallon jugs along with other trash often end up in Wetland areas resulting in destruction of the wildlife habitat.

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Pesticides and herbicides used to control pests and weeds around the world end up in rivers and streams by way of runoff. Eventually these toxins find their way into wetland areas poisoning plants and animals and making the land uninhabitable.


Gone Goslin' Goose
"Okay, now that we know we need to straighten up and fly right, here are some ideas about what you can do to help. I sure hope you're going to start doing these things right away. The wetlands are disappearing awfully fast. Won't you please help us?"


 What Needs To Be Done
 
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Connect with local and state agencies. Be persistent and get involved in storm water and watershed planning and management activities.

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Organize wetland cleanups and pick up trash and debris from the wetlands.

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Shop smart, buying only products that are degradable and recyclable.

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Try to avoid buying plastic or products packaged in plastic. Plastics especially are nearly indestructible, accumulating in offensive piles throughout the wetlands.

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Take chemicals and motor oils to proper disposal sites.

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Use Integrated Pest Management Programs instead of harmful pesticides, herbicides and toxic chemicals!

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Use Integrated Pest Management Programs instead of harmful pesticides, herbicides and toxic chemicals!

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If you are using a septic system, engage in routine maintainance practices.

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BE AWARE! Know what's going on ibn your community. If you know of something that's going to be done that will endanger wetlands, you can help by alerting people to the potential problem.

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GET INVOLVED!


Gone Goslin' Goose

 

 


"Remember, we who live in the Wetlands habitat areas on Earth need your help! Before I fly the coop, I've dropped off a 24 page coloring book (PDF 1.5 Mb) of the Wetland habitat area for you to print and color. Enjoy!! Stop by if you're around these parts again. Don't be a stranger!"

Inch in a Pinch Caterpillar

 

 

"Boy, Wetlands remind me a lot of coral reefs. Both habitat areas support a great number of wildlife species. As Gone Gozlin' said, there's a whole lot of life that would be lost if we lose the wetland habitat. Let's join forces with Gone Gozlin' and all his friends. Together we can save this important habitat." 


To learn more about Wetlands, visit the following:
America's Wetlands
EPA Wetlands
What Is It Like where You Live? - Wetlands
 

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